Secrecy shrouds slaying of northwest Oklahoma City woman

Oklahoma City police have released few details surrounding the beating death of Julie Mitchell, and open government experts are criticizing their lack of openness.

BY BRYAN DEAN Published: November 13, 2010
From the moment Julie Mitchell was found beaten to death in the closet of her northwest Oklahoma City home, secrecy has surrounded the case.Police have been stingy with information about the death, and most of the details that are known such as the cause of her death, the circumstances in which the body was found and information about her family, came from outside sources.Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty denied The Oklahoman’s request under the Oklahoma Open Records Act for release of any and all records related to Mitchell’s death.
He said “release of investigative material may seriously jeopardize the investigation of an apparent homicide.”Authorities have good reason to protect information in the case. But open government experts said people are entitled to know certain details when their friends, loved ones and neighbors are murdered.Citty said police don’t want to give away critical details that might help trap a suspect or prejudice potential witnesses.“You can call it secrecy, but it’s really no different than any other homicide we investigate,” Citty said. “If we have somebody, a witness or a suspect that is giving us all the details of the case, and all those details are in the paper, we don’t know if they are coming from what knowledge the person has or what they are reading. It’s even more critical in a homicide investigation because the primary witness to the crime is deceased.”Mitchell, 34, was found dead at her home Nov. 2.The medical examiner’s office said Mitchell died from multiple blunt force trauma to the head.A fire department report mistakenly released to a television station said Mitchell’s body was found in a closet of the home, along with her 13-month old daughter, who was covered in blood but unharmed.Days after the killing, authorities outside the police department said Mitchell’s husband, Teddy Mitchell, is a poker player and sports bookie.An attorney and friend of Teddy Mitchell said Thursday that a large sum of cash was stolen from a safe in the closet where Julie Mitchell was found dead. None of those details were released by police.The official police incident report released Monday was written by the third officer to arrive at the scene. The officer never entered the house and described putting crime tape around the outside perimeter of the crime scene.Police later revealed some of the details normally found in an incident report but have refused to release supplementary reports written by the officers who first entered the home.The Oklahoma Open Records Act requires offense reports include basic facts, including a brief summary of what occurred at a crime scene.